'Scary, scary times' for pioneering Lancashire chocolatiers who are facing a very 'perfect storm'

Paul and his wife Jacqui run Choc Amor in Ormskirk
Paul and his wife Jacqui run Choc Amor in Ormskirk -Credit:Paul Williams

Ormskirk's Choc Amor like to do things a bit differently.

Here, your typical milk, or caramel, chocolates are (mostly) out. In their place are creations such as Thai 7 Spice, Salt and Pink Peppercorn, Orange Jalfrezi, or Chipotle.

This isn't Cadbury's. A growing name in the business, last year, the husband and wife duo behind the firm were awarded a coveted Great Taste. Their chocolates were chosen from almost 15,000 products in the awards, which showcase the best quality food and drinks producers in the UK.

But times at Choc Amor are tough - and co-owner Paul Williams says its a trend common everywhere in the chocolate world. A combination of supply shortage, environmental factors and lack of investment has meant the price of cocoa has risen exponentially.


CNBC reports cocoa prices have tripled in the past year and are up 129 per cent in 2024. Some say it's as much as 200 per cent. A significant sum, it has affected the biggest of chocolate businesses, but particularly the smaller chocolatiers who are struggling to stay afloat.

Run by Paul and his wife Jacqui, Choc Amor is facing crippling costs. Having established the business in 2012, Choc Amor have won 58 awards, seven world awards and four Great Taste awards last year alone, but recent price hikes are a real and very apparent threat.

Speaking to LancsLive, Paul explained cocoa and raw beans are traded as a commodity and for the last 20 years, they've been around $2,200-2,500 per tonne. Now, that's between $10-11,000 per tonne.

"It's kind of like the perfect storm," Paul explains. "What you've had, is a lack of investment from the last 20 years on the west coast of Africa, where 70% of all chocolate is grown.

Jacqui and Paul have seen a dramatic increase in the cost of cocoa
Jacqui and Paul have seen a dramatic increase in the cost of cocoa -Credit:Paul Williams

"Then on top of that, the big chocolate companies have been squeezing the growers more and more and more, that's another problem. All of our chocolate comes from South America, from Columbia, but it's all traded on the world stock exchange.

"So you've had this lack of investment and also three or four years of bad harvest on the west cost of Africa, due to rain and global warming and everything else going on there, so that hasn't helped. You've now got the problem of everything lining up and it's an absolute nightmare."

In January, Choc Amor experienced something between 15-17% price increase. However, this has got progressively worse.

In the past 18 months, their dark chocolate has risen by 99% and milk and white chocolate have both increased by 60%. "So the problem we've now got is two-fold," Paul added.

"What would have cost us in December for our yearly amount which we went through, was about £23-24,000 of chocolate in a year, bearing in mind we go directly to the manufacturers of the chocolate. That will now set up back £41,000.

"On top of that, packaging has increased about the last 18 months probably by 25-30%. Cardboard boxes we used to use were 25p and now they're 50p - it's everything.

"It's that perfect storm in a teacup now and everything that could go wrong, has gone wrong."

Paul and Jacqui get their cocoa beans from Columbia
Paul and Jacqui get their cocoa beans from Columbia -Credit:Paul Williams

Having to navigate through these hard times, the difficult decision Paul and other chocolatiers have to make is whether to increase their prices. Businesses are feeling the hit, but at what cost?

Paul continued: "We know we're going to have to put the prices up, irrespective, but at what cost? Does the customer then think that we're profiteering from it?

"That's where we're at now. If you look at the past 18 months to where we are now, it's scary scary times. It's really scary."

Over Easter this year, reports were made about the price increase for chocolate treats during the holiday period, as well as the use of shrinkflation to keep companies afloat. This is when products shrink in size, but the price remains the same - something Paul and Jacqui are having to consider.

The chocolatier said: "I got just short of a tonne in yesterday, of chocolate, which is a pallet load. Yesterday when I got it, I got it at the old prices which was £5,500-6,000 but when I buy it tomorrow, if I need it tomorrow, it will cost me £9,000.

"We can't just take that on the chin anymore, it's an absolute impossibility."

As reported by the Mirror Amber Sawyer, an analyst from the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, says farmers need more help to protect their jobs and keep cocoa beans coming to the UK. Amber said: "Farmers in West Africa who grow the main ingredient, cocoa beans, of the Easter eggs many of us are looking forward to are struggling in the face of both extreme heat and extremes in rainfall.

"Wealthy nations like the UK can provide financial and technical support to developing countries to help their farmers better cope with these extremes. Ultimately, if we're to stop these extremes getting ever worse, we have to reach net zero emissions."